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O’Neill: Solomons held the forte well

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) has made solid progress under the chairmanship of Solomon Islands (SI).

The PM said under the SI leadership, member countries completed negotiations on the MSG Free Trade Agreement and the conduction of two national elections.

O’Neill made the remarks when officially assuming the MSG Chair from Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Nelson.

Leaders and government officials from member countries were welcomed with traditional dances from selected provinces in the four regions of PNG.

Each country representative was greeted upon arrival by National Planning Minister, Justin Tkatchenko, and PNG High Commissioners to Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

The national anthems of each member country were played as their government representatives were escorted onto the stage.

Outgoing MSG Chair, Rick Nelson, highlighted limited funding as a challenge SI had faced during its two-year chairmanship.

“We were limited to what we can do with the funding available,” said Nelson.

However, he remarked that SI is looking forward to working with PNG and other member countries in addressing issues Pacific Island nations face at a sub-region level

Following Nelson’s remarks, he crowned PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, with a necklace made from traditional SI money.

Assuming the chair, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill highlighted national security, climate change and sustainable trade as areas of focus for the 21 MSG meeting.

“We will continue what matters and the issues affecting our people,” said O’Neill.

PNG will chair MSG agendas until 2020 when the chairmanship is changed.

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